Alien Invasive Species Removal for Improved Ecosystems

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05.28.2012

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is known for helping to rescue and protect cheetahs. Yet, this is only a part of what we do in our mission to save this threatened species and the habitat in which it lives. A team consisting of interns, volunteers and Earthwatchers, lead by the Senior Ecologist Matti Nghikembua, is dedicated to fighting off alien invasive species that are taking over cheetah habitat: the Mexican poppy (Aregmone ochroleuca) and the thorn-apple (Datura inoxia).  Both of these plants are not native to Namibia, but are present here in huge quantities, and when they take hold, it is difficult to get rid of them. CCF is trying to change this.

Why care?

Nutrients in the soil allow plants to grow, which are eaten by herbivores and omnivores, who are in turn eaten by cheetahs and other predators.  When these animals die, their carcasses provide nutrients for the soil, thus maintaining the cycle of energy. However, the animals of Namibia are not specialized to eat either the unpalatable Mexican poppy or thorn-apple so, instead, the cycle is broken. These plants grow unregulated, spreading across the land and using up valuable nutrients, water and space that would otherwise be used by the native and eatable plant species of Namibia.

Our progress

Our first priority, because the thorn-apple is toxic, was to remove all of these plants from the areas around our model farm that our goat herds have access to. From there, we moved on to clearing other areas on CCF property infested with these plants.  Our most recent accomplishment was removing a massive infestation at Cattle Dam in our Osonoanga Reserve.  Unfortunately a similar affliction awaits us in other areas around the property. Wish us strength!

 

Marnel Müller

Ecology Volunteer

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

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